[Newspoint] Who brought Matobato out in the light?

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] Who brought Matobato out in the light?
(UPDATED) It is a curiosity that nags both sides of the political divide. After all, Matobato has come out to indict President Duterte himself.

One of today’s most persistent curiosities about Edgar Matobato centers on this question: Who brought him out in the light?

It is a curiosity that nags both sides of the political divide. After all, Matobato has come out to indict President Duterte himself, and indict him in the most scathing fashion; he has come out to tell, in rich and, on the face of it, firsthand detail, stories that reveal the most frightening aspects of his character – aspects that portray him more as a death-squad boss than as a law-respecting leader.

Matobato’s motive is naturally called in question: Has he, a confessed member of the very death squad he speaks of, come out as part of some desperate survival deal, or does he, as he claims, truthfully want to reveal all he knows in the public interest – if also for his own redemption, dead or alive?

During a special mass on Saturday at La Salle in Greenhills, that question was indirectly answered in the process of revealing who has harbored Matobato and who has brought him out in the light.

That the mass was said for Senator Leila de Lima, an object of Duterte’s consuming ire, may be seen to take away from the credibility of whatever transpired there about Matobato’s case. On the other hand, the case was not touched at mass except to answer the question Matobato himself had avoided answering at the Senate hearings.

What details I myself got in answer to the question, and on other things related to it, I got in an after-mass inquiry with the revealer, Fr. Albert Alejo (who co-celebrated the mass with Fr. Robert Reyes), and Matobato’s lawyer, Jude Sabio. Here’s Father Albert’s story:

Since May, once Duterte’s presidential victory became a forgone conclusion, Matobato began looking for sanctuary, and has found it with the clergy. To minimize risks of detection, he was passed from sanctuary to sanctuary, sometimes from priest to priest, like some ancient scroll of revelation targeted for destruction.

Father Albert, who has admitted taking his own turn as a protector, says that, “even if Matobato had wanted to reveal our names, remembering them alone would have been difficult for him – there were just a fair number of us.” And, since the relay had had to proceed anxiously and apace, he adds, no closeness could have developed between Matobato and them.

He has further revealed that harboring Matobato has the blessing of the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who himself confirms it, citing a Church tradition that upholds such right to sanctuary.

Matobato’s champion

Sabio’s own involvement with Matobato is another fortuitous case. Mostly confined to home in Cagayan de Oro City as he recuperated from an angioplasty in June, he found himself watching Matobato’s testimony at the Senate on YouTube. He says he was impressed by Matobato’s forthrightness, his testimony’s richness in detail, and a promptness in replying to questions that showed little need or care for counsel.

He started writing about what he had watched from a lawyer’s viewpoint, even fancying himself Matobato’s champion. His writings found print and caught the attention of Father Albert, who, checking him out, found enough validation from a fellow resident at the Loyola House of Studies at Ateneo de Manila, Fr. William (Bill) Kreutz, former president of Ateneo de Zamboanga.

Sabio happens to owe Fr. Bill, a beloved Jesuit old-timer, the scholarship that got him his A.B. in Political Science at the Ateneo de Manila. After graduating in 1986, he went to the University of the Philippines for law, graduating in 1993.

On October 5 he came flying to Manila on a one-way ticket, met Father Albert for the first time, and went straight to work on a preemptive motion for bail for Matobato, who had been warned that a warrant of arrest had been issued against him.

On arrangements made by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Matobato’s custodian – he guaranteed Matobato’s safety after Senate President Aquiline Pimentel had refused him Senate protection as an inquiry witness – the motion, once done, was flown to Davao City, for filing the next day with the court where Matobato faced charges of illegal possession for firearms. 

The day after – the 6th – Sabio finally met Matobato, at his Oblates House sanctuary, in Fairview, Quezon City. “The half day I spent with him was just not enough for me to absorb everything,” he says. “So much detail – simply staggering.”

The warrant served, Motabato was surrendered the next day to Gen. Ronald de la Rosa, director general of the national police, at its headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Sabio and Father Albert followed and caught up with him as he was being booked, with Trillanes present and constantly giving Matobato assurances.

Sabio flew Sunday to Davao to start efforts to get Matobato off on bail – and be assured, again, of his right to sanctuary. – Rappler.com



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